Heather Weeks had dreams of being famous — not for the fortune, or the glamour.
If she’d been famous, Heather would have given it all away.
“Heather always said that if she could ever be famous, she’d like to use that for good, like Oprah,” said Heather’s mother, Frieda Weeks, “giving wishes and helping others.”
Heather never got to be famous. On June 10, 2008, she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of colon cancer, which had quickly spread to her liver and bone marrow. After extensive chemotherapy, she passed away Nov. 14, 2008.
Though she wasn’t able to make a name for herself as a professional dancer — the 2002 Liverpool High School graduate had to give up her lifelong dream when she got sick — Heather still left behind an important legacy. In her final months, Heather worked tirelessly to advocate for ovarian cancer awareness. Her family has continued to champion the cause since her death with Hope for Heather, a nonprofit that works to spread awareness of the disease as well as support women undergoing treatment and their families.
On the 10th anniversary of Heather’s passing, her mother is asking the community to once again honor Heather with Random Acts of Kindness Day on Wednesday, Nov. 14, an event she started in 2013.
“It started five years ago when I was up in the middle of the night, thinking of the day we lost Heather and how I should honor that day and turn a tragedy in to something positive and spread some goodwill,” Frieda Weeks said. “We’d like to honor her memory by asking everyone to do a random act of kindness on this day, whether it’s buying coffee for the person in the drive-through behind you, holding a door open, passing a compliment, whatever.”
Over the last five years, thousands of acts of kindness have been carried out — something as simple as giving a flower to someone who looks like they’re having a rough day or helping carry a person’s groceries to their car. Weeks said no act is too small, and anyone anywhere can take part.
“People can participate by doing any kind of random act of kindness wherever they are on Nov. 14,” she said. “We’ve had participants all across the country and as far away as Japan.”
Weeks is encouraging participants to share their acts on social media using the hashtag #BeKind4Heather. A Facebook event page has already been created: visit Facebook.com/events/2168960706649120 to join the event and to share your act of kindness.
“It’s a wonderful thing to see all the postings,” Weeks said. “It has made a very difficult day change to a day that gives me a focus and a way to keep my thoughts driven toward kindness and seeing the good in our world.”
Though a decade has passed since she lost her daughter, Weeks said the loss never gets easier to bear.
“There is a hole in my heart that will always be there,” she said. “This time of year is a lonely time — when the world is full of holiday celebrations, and we hang on to our memories of when our daughter was with us and our family was complete.”
But Weeks said the nonprofit she started in Heather’s name — which will celebrate its 10th anniversary next year — helps to keep her going.
“My work has placed me in the path of truly amazing and giving people,” she said. “Hope for Heather also allows me to meet cancer warriors that face their challenges with such strength and grace, and they have become an inspiration to me.”
Hope for Heather will host its 10-year Celebration of Hope: Hope for Heather Fashion Show and Brunch on April 14, 2019, at the Embassy Suites at Destiny USA. They’ll also make an appearance at the March 23, 2019, Syracuse Crunch game.
In the meantime, Weeks, as well as her husband and son, are looking forward to learning about the acts of kindness carried out on Nov. 14. Weeks said she hopes the day has a lasting impact on those who participate.
“I hope that it has made the community a little kinder to each other,” she said. “I hope people will stop to appreciate how short life can be and use this day to reach out to each other and celebrate life.”
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.